The Great East Earthquake: Victims living in different situations mutually support each other

Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture had a pleasant time on the Sunday afternoon of September 10th, in Musashino, Tokyo. They had evacuated from Fukushima and are taking shelter in and around the city. It was “Musashino Smile,” an organization which supports the evacuees, that organized the gathering, with assistance from AAR Japan. A total of 28 people participated. Junnko Matsuo, the person who organized the gathering, said, “It is difficult for some of the victims to attend a weekday party, so I planned a holiday lunch party so that more people can attend and enjoy a time of chatting.” The participants had an enjoyable time talking about recent happenings in their lives for about three hours over a buffet-style lunch. It was a superb lunch full of lively conversations.
Disaster victims from Fukushima prefecture having a pleasant time on an early Sunday afternoon.(10th, Sep. 2017)

A woman who fled from the village of Katsurao said to us, “It doesn’t matter whether the evacuation is voluntary or mandatory. We’d like to reduce influence of radiation on our children and grandchildren if only by a little.” While the evacuees are now able to return to their homes because the evacuation order has been lifted after the completion of decontamination, it is only elderly people who have returned. There were only four school-age children who expressed their desire to return to the village to go to school, so the resuming of classes has been deferred until next year. Another woman who has evacuated with her children was looking back over the last six years of struggle. During that time, she was forced to travel in search of work in order to raise the family. Most of the participants unanimously said, “It’s definitely a happy and pleasant experience to gather like this, instead of the usual loneliness”, and, “this gathering has helped me get unhappy feelings off my chest.”
A superb lunch full of lively conversations

The gathering was attended not only by evacuees, but also by those from Fukushima who have been living in Tokyo for years. Among them was a woman who shared that she couldn’t bear to see the painful situation of her fellow people from her own hometown. But she expressed that, “After this experience, I am motivated to do what I can for them.” Among the evacuees was also a person who said, “I’ve been supported by people around me so far, but from now on, I want to become that support for others.” It was indeed an impressive sight witnessing every evacuee showing determination and strength from within to move forward with their lives, despite having gone through the unhappy, frustrating, and tough situation of losing their hometown. AAR is committed to the continued support of the evacuees from Fukushima, through activities such as Musashino Smile.

Shinichiro OHARA, AAR Japan Sendai office
Joined AAR in August 2011 after working in a manufacturing company.Based in Sendai, he has been engaged in recovery assistance in Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima nearly daily. Born in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

Japanese-English translation by Mr.Masaharu Sato
English editing by Mr. Wong Chun Han

This article has been translated by volunteers as part of the AAR Japan's Volunteer Programme. Their generous contributions allow us to spread our activities and ideas globally, through an ever-growing selection of our reports from the field.